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  • Anouchka Harris

Writing Tips: Style

There are plenty of people who will try to tell you what ‘good style’ is. First of all, anyone who tries to make you conform to their personal preferences in style doesn’t have your interests at heart. It’s their ego they’re serving. Nobody can tell you exactly how to write your style, because it’s yours and it’s unique. But there are some tips you can incorporate into your work. You can use them to showcase your unique voice in the best possible way.

o Don’t feel the need to reach for the thesaurus all the time. It’s a story, not a vocabulary test. Your readers won’t want to feel like they need a dictionary.

o Vary your sentence length. This stops your voice from falling into a monotonous rhythm.

o Read your work out loud. The sentences that don’t quite flow will jump out to you and so will the words that don’t quite fit the tone or don’t quite convey the meaning you want them to.

o Remember that the most powerful tool you can employ is your reader’s imagination. To get the most impact out of a moment, allow your reader’s imagination to do the heavy lifting. Describe one small detail; a smear of blood on the screen of a smartphone where a victim tried to dial for help; the roughness against your tongue when you feel a chip in one of your teeth. If you’re describing an injury, don’t describe the gushing blood, describe something smaller and less obvious. The same rule can be applied to almost anything. But be careful not to overuse this. You still need to your writing to be clear.

o Where possible, try to end your sentences with a verb or a noun. It strengthens the sentence and adds impact. Compare the first sentence with this: Try to end your sentences with a verb or noun, where possible. Read the two sentences out loud and see if you can hear the difference. It’s subtle, but it’s an effective way of adding a little more oomph when you need it.

o I always find that I’m a bit lacking in description when I write a first draft. On the whole, I tend to underwrite. Are you an underwriter or an overwriter? Do you skimp in terms of style to get the plot across, or do you have excess description? Put aside your ego and ask yourself whether the description you’ve got is a) necessary and b) effective. Don’t describe something twice when once will do just fine.

o Don’t sacrifice clarity for style. First and foremost, your reader needs to understand what you’re writing. It doesn’t matter if it sounds good if it doesn’t clearly convey the scenario or object you’re describing.

o Try not to fall back on too many ‘set’ phrases (like ‘hustle and bustle’) or clichéd similes. These weaken your writing. You have a unique story to tell, so use your own words, not ones that have been used a million times before.

o Don’t underestimate the importance of punctuation! A well-placed comma can mean the difference between clarity and confusion. In a similar vein, try not to let your sentences run on too long. Eventually your reader will forget where the sentence started. If your grammar could use a brush-up since school, try any book on grammar by David Crystal.

o What if you haven’t found your authorial voice yet? Keep reading, keep writing, keep experimenting. Fan-fiction is great for experimenting with characters, genres and styles, so if that feels like a good foundation, try it. No writing is ever wasted. You can learn from everything you read or write, if you approach it with an open mind.

That's all for now! Happy writing!


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